Good-bye old self

Dear Patient,

Have you been told you will get a ‘new normal’ by health professionals or read about it during one of your many searches for information on your cancer diagnosis?

Well, I have and I’m beginning to get a hint of what health care professionals mean when they say, ‘you’ll establish a new normal. Does ‘new normal’ mean a better or worse version of the old you? Or does it mean a worse physical version of the old you with a greater


appreciation for those things that are invisible. In my case, ‘new normal’ means doing the same activities that you used to do so easily much more slowly or not being able to do them at all. Everything is more measured, slower, almost to the point where it needs to be plotted out and unspontaneous. It means the possibility of aborting your activity due to the onset of symptoms that are out of your control. It means having to change your plans suddenly because suddenly you just don’t feel so well. It means to expect the unexpected…the unwanted.

Acceptance of a new normal self is particularly difficult if you liked your old self. The old self who was always on the go, was healthy, liked to start new projects, travel, eat out at


restaurants, whose motto was,”Try everything once.” The new self is much slower, experiences much more discomfort, pain, and physical challenges. Just going up a flight of stairs brings on shortness of breath and pain. This is NOT the life I imagined for myself. This is the life of someone who made it through a life-threatening illness because of medical advances in life-saving treatment, and lives with ongoing unwanted physical symptoms. This is the life of someone who HAD a good life and wants it back.

I believe that in order to understand and accept the ‘new normal’, one needs to mourn and long for the old self. It’s like being at your own funeral, but you’re still alive. The person you used to be is still part of you, perhaps waiting in the background or shadows to re-emerge. But there is no sense in longing for something that perhaps cannot be. Deal with the here and now the best you can, and maybe that will help with the tomorrows.

And maybe, just maybe, one day, the real you will suddenly re-appear and say “I’m back.”

My best to you,

Marti, the stem-cell transplant girl

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